A new season in a new building could be just what the Red Deer Vipers need to get themselves to the top of the Heritage Junior Hockey League.
The Vipers kicked off the 2016-17 HJHL season in promising fashion last weekend as they began their first season at the Collicutt Centre with a huge 4-0 shutout victory over the Ponoka Stampeders, Saturday night.
Though a 5-3 loss to the defending champion Mountainview Colts put a bit of a damper on the team’s Collicutt Centre debut, Vipers’ Head Coach JD Morrical said he was excited about what he saw from his young squad.
“The team we have this year, we have a lot of new players, we don’t have very many returning guys which I don’t really mind. It’s not that bad. It just takes awhile to get them to play the way me and (assistant coach) Kaare (Odegard) want them to play,” Morrical said of his team’s play in the first two games of the regular season.
He added even though they didn’t get the result they wanted against the defending champs in Didsbury on Friday, he was happy that his group was able to keep pace with the Juggernaut.
“They had a lot of their guys back from last year and they looked pretty solid, but we hung in there with them.”
Saturday night’s game against Ponoka, however, was an entirely different story.
“We just played a good, solid game. We didn’t really give up much. We had excellent goaltending that night, too. Branden Bilodeau played on Saturday against Ponoka for the shutout,” Morrical said.
Although the Vipers had a slow start to the game, all it took was one goal to open up the flood gates.
Tye Munro, Tristan Zarubiak, Brett Marsollier and Justin Van Tetering all contributed goals for the Vipers on the way to the shutout win.
Morrical said the move to the Collicutt Centre is going to be a bit of an adjustment for the Vipers after the team spent more than 16 years at the Red Deer Arena.
“It’s a totally different feel for us. New ice, everything is new but it was good to get the win. We just played a really, really solid game. There was really no stress at any time and I think once we get a couple of these new guys back, as well, I think our offense will be even better.”
After playing the role of host for the Hockey Alberta Junior B provincials last season, the Vipers will be looking to win their way back into the prestigious tournament.
“We kind of talked to the team about it and they all said the goal this year is basically the same as last year – to win the league and to win provincials as well. I think we definitely have the team that can do it. Last year we were hosting provincials and there was a little added pressure there, but I think without that this year I think we can do some really good things.”
The Red Deer Vipers are in action this Friday when they travel north to take on the Airdrie Lighting.